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At least, he doesn’t think it deserves a spot near the top of a list for “Most Livable Cities.”
Ultimately, whether you endorse this list depends on whether you care about the criteria. Fisher says that Bethesda’s great “only if you have a boatload of money. It’s a wildly expensive housing market, with retail selections and prices to match. It’s more urban in feel than many other suburban centers, and the county has done a good job of injecting planned density into what had been your standard product of haphazard sprawl. Bethesda is well served by transit; wealthy enough to provide excellent amenities such as libraries, schools and parks; and it can boast of active civic involvement.”
In the comment section, the Fisher-prompted backlash against Bethesda has already turned into a backlash toward Bethesda-bashers. As I wrote earlier, Forbes’ selections were judged on several “quality of life measures:” Five-year income growth per household, cost of living from Moody’s Economy.com, crime data and leisure index from Sperling’s Best Places, and annual unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the story.
At last voting, 28 percent had voted in support of Bethesda, while only 20 percent had voted in support of some other local city. But 50 percent said Bethesda had “a sterile downtown and it’s only liveable if you’re wealthy.”
Maybe so. That whole sterile thing comes from the fact that much of the development, especially around the Barnes & Noble, is new. New is rarely charming. But Fisher asks “Is Bethesda any more livable than, say, Ballston, Clarendon, Takoma Park, Old Town Alexandria, Del Ray, Vienna, Fairfax City, Leesburg, Georgetown, D.C. Chevy Chase, or Capitol Hill?”
Bethesda’s my hometown, so I’m feeling a little judged here. But where it’s low on the charm factor, it does offer plenty of other things: A solid supply of restaurants, two movie theaters, good public schools, a centrally located Metro—-And as long as you have a car, proximity to most necessities in life without the parking headaches and traffic hassles that other suburbs and city neighborhoods provide. Overall, when you think about all these neighborhoods, Bethesda’s pretty livable. And besides, why is Fisher railing against Bethesda as only accessible to people with a “boatload of money”—-and then bringing up Clarendon, Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown and Chevy Chase as better alternatives?
Image by DCjohn, Flickr Creative Commons